About Michael

Practical, deeply experienced trial counsel for employment disputes

Michael Sullivan is an experienced trial lawyer and has represented employers for over 35 years. His clients include leading companies in the education (primary, secondary and higher), technology, retail and health care sectors. A fellow of the prestigious College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, Mike focuses on:

  • Employment litigation
  • Employment law counseling
  • Higher education litigation and counseling

Mike excels at addressing the practical considerations facing clients as he develops litigation strategies, and he delivers creative solutions aligned with their business objectives.

Mike was a co-founder of Paul, Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton LLP, which combined with Quarles in 2023.

Experience in Action

  • Litigating employment cases, including claims for wrongful termination, wage and hour violations, trade secrets violations, discrimination, whistleblowing, sexual harassment and defamation. Mike has handled over 500 employment cases.
  • Litigating class action lawsuits and claims brought by governmental agencies.
  • Serving as lead trial counsel. Mike has tried over 40 employment cases before juries, judges and arbitrators.
  • Advising employers on a full range of employment and workplace issues, including wage and hour issues, leaves of absence, discipline and discharges, layoffs, conducting internal investigations, dealing with union activity, workplace safety issues and regulatory compliance.
  • Providing training to client management teams on the full spectrum of employment issues, including conducting internal investigations, managing employees, sexual harassment and proper classification of employees.


  • Defense verdict in first-of-its-kind jury trial on fraud claims against law school.
  • Achieved dismissal of wrongful termination lawsuit for public school.
  • Achieved summary judgment for university in breach of contract and defamation lawsuit.
  • Achieved dismissal of Title VII lawsuits for a university and a public school.
  • Defeated class certification of multiple educational fraud cases.
  • Obtained anti-SLAPP judgment and fee award in defamation case.
  • Achieved dismissal of education fraud claims against educational institution.
  • Jury trial to defense verdict in national origin and race discrimination claims.
  • Jury trial to defense verdict of claims of sexual harassment, failure to prevent harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
  • Jury trial to defense verdict of Title VII discrimination claim based on national origin and/or gender relating to the termination of plaintiff’s employment.
  • Achieved judgment for defendant in $12 million ERISA arbitration for defense contractor.

Professional Recognitions

  • Best Lawyers in America® (2006-present)
  • Best Lawyers as the 2020 "Lawyer of the Year" for Labor Law – Management in the San Diego area (2020)
  • "Lawyer of the Year" for Labor Law – Management (2019, 2016), and also for Employment Law - Management (2014)
  • Ranked by Martindale-Hubbell as a Top Lawyer in the Labor & Employment category as published in San Diego Magazine (2016, 2017)
  • Listed by The Recorder as one of the best employment lawyers in California not working at a "mega-firm” (2006)
  • San Diego Super Lawyers® (2007-present: Labor & Employment)

  • The Daily Transcript named Mike as one of San Diego County's Top Attorneys in Labor and Employment (2005)

Professional & Civic Activities

  • University of San Diego School of Law for 12 years, teaching Employment Law and Employment Discrimination, adjunct professor
    • Frequent lecturer on employment law issues for industry and human resources groups
  • Bender's California Labor & Employment Bulletin, editor-in-chief (2003-2019)
  • College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, fellow (2021)

  • San Diego County Bar Association, Labor and Employment Section, member
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys, member
  • American Employment Law Council, member
  • California Society of Healthcare Attorneys, member
  • San Diego County Bar Career Development Circle, chair (2015)
  • Career Development Mentor

Speaking Engagements

  • New Developments, PPSC Annual Employment Law Update, October 2020
  • New Developments, PPSC Annual Employment Law Update, November 2019
  • Your Fired... Principles of Employment and Peer Review Law,  CSHA Annual Spring Seminar, April 2019
  • New Developments  –  Harassment & Discrimination Developments Following #MeToo - PPSC Annual Employment Law Update,  November 2018
  • New Developments, PPSC Annual Employment Law Update, October 2017
  • Discrimination and Harassment, PPSC Annual Employment Law Seminar, October 2016
  • Panel speaker Love and Learning Collide: Faculty-Student Relationships Under Title VII and Title IX , NACUA 2016 Annual Conference, June 2016
  • Employee Wellness Programs and the EEOC:  What Changes Need to be Made to Your Wellness Program to Comply With the EEOC’s New Rules?,  2016 Healthcare Provider Wellness Conference, HASC, June 2016
  • UC San Diego Workshop Employment Law at Viasat, April 2016
  • UC San Diego Workshop Employment Law at Viasat, October 2015
  • Employees on the Move: Dealing with Employee Mobility, PPSC Summer Series Seminar, July 2015
  • New Developments, PPSC Annual Employment Law Update, November 2014
  • Creative Recruitment & Retention in a Risky Environment, PPSC Annual Employment Law Update, November 2014
  • UC San Diego Workshop Employment Law at Viasat, October 2014
  • Employment Law Update, San Diego Employer’s Association, January 2014
  • The Interplay Between Peer Review and Employment Law, California Society of Healthcare Attorneys’ Fall Conference, November 2013
  • Dealing with Conduct Outside of Work, PPSC Annual Employment Law Update, October 2013
  • New Developments, PPSC Annual Employment Law Update, November 2012
  • Managing Employee Absences, PPSC Annual Employment Law Update, November 2012
  • Provide sexual harassment training to clients in a variety of industries
  • Provide employment law training and update to client’s international human resources staff

News & Insights


Bar Admissions

Court Admissions

Back to Main Content

We use cookies to provide you with the best user experience on our website and to analyze statistics related to our website. To understand more about how we use cookies, or for instructions to change your preference and browser settings, please see our Privacy Notice. Please note that if you choose to reject cookies, doing so may impair some of our website's functionality.